Women of the Fairmont Zimbali Resort

Women of the Fairmont Zimbali Resort:

Daphne Naidoo, Kgabo Phaka and Verona Oliver
Daphne Naidoo, Kgabo Phaka and Verona Oliver

DURBAN, August, 2019 – Hospitality is a great fit for women! Although up to date statistics are hard to come by, tourism industry leaders estimate that more than half of all employees in the sector are women, and that more and more women are being promoted into managerial positions across South Africa.

While the clichés that women are good at caring for, and getting on with people, and that decorating and catering come naturally may apply in some instances, the reality is that our women in the hospitality sector are great organisers, managers and entrepreneurs, too.

At the Fairmont Zimbali Resort during August, we are celebrating the professionalism and loyalty of our ladies whose hard work, creativity and attention to detail deliver the memorable experiences that our guests take home with them.

Three of the ladies at the Fairmont Zimbali Resort share their career experiences


A career in hospitality was always a childhood dream for Verona and she studied Hospitality Management at the International Hotel School.19 years later, she can recount a number of important milestones throughout her career, with promotion into her current position firmly at the top of her list.

“The reason being is that I had to work exceptionally hard to prove to many stakeholders in our industry that I was worthy of such a senior role at such a young age. In hindsight, I am grateful that the position was not simply handed to me. I had to work very hard to prove I was the right “man for the job”. I have been fortunate to have not experienced any challenges as a woman in the hospitality industry, but that is largely because the team I work with share mutual respect and very similar values, “she says.

Verona’s day is an intense mix of meetings, planning and coordinating various activities, coupled with securing the right talent for the Company. “No day is ever the same and, more often than not, I get to have a ton of fun in the HR Department – arranging special events for our colleagues, recognising and rewarding exceptional performance, or facilitating learning interventions designed to help grow and develop our workforce.”

She joined the Fairmont Zimbali Resort in August 2009. The status of the global brand was the chief drawcard.

“It is an exceptionally challenging property. I deal with various entities from the Fairmont Zimbali Resort to the Zimbali Vacation Club, Fractional Ownership and a Rental Program to name a few. Each entity has unique requirements and I am required to think with different caps. I enjoy this as it challenges me to be innovative in my approach,” she points out.

What Verona enjoys most about her job is being able to make a meaningful contribution to the resort’s strategic vision. “It is very exciting to be able to play such an integral role in the future of any organisation. This also includes heading up many key initiatives, solving problems and resolving conflict or even calm decision making in a crisis. I consider myself to be the go to person for our top management as well as our employees at the grass-roots level which is something I thoroughly enjoy.”


Even though she has spent 30 years in the hospitality industry, Daphne did not set out to work within this sector. Instead, she had her eye on joining the police force and building a career in criminal forensics.

A short stint as a casual switchboard operator at the Maharani Sun changed that.

Daphne joined the Fairmont Zimbali Resort in January this year, as the Director of Revenue.

Her job is to maximise revenue growth opportunities and a typical day starts out with retrieving and analysing reports and statistics and observing trends and booking patterns. She prepares forecasts based on historical data, pace, trends, economic situations, inflation and deflation, and then works closely with the General Manager and other decision makers to grow the Resort’s profits.

She says the highlight of a career that has seen her go from switchboard operator to revenue director has actually been seeing team members that she has mentored grow their own careers.
Asked if it has been difficult to climb the hospitality ladder in a man’s world she observes: “I have been fortunate to have worked with managers who created opportunities for growth and development. I’m blessed not to have had any negative experiences.”

Daphne says that she enjoys the opportunities and challenges she faces as well as the opportunity to be part of any changes that lie ahead. “What I enjoy most is being able to create and implement strategies and train and develop people. This will enable me to leave a lasting legacy.”


Having spent five years in the hospitality industry and 16 years within the travel and tourism industry as a whole, Kgabo joined the Fairmont Zimbali Resort in February this year.

She can list a number of career highlights along the way, including working for reputable brands that contribute to the tourism sector, as well as to the national GDP and providing jobs for South Africans, meeting with different people from all parts of the world including high profile celebrities and government ministers and presenting provincial sports awards live on Supersport and conducting radio interviews.

Kgabo says she never intended doing anything different and went straight to a tertiary institution to get the necessary qualification.

“The travel and tourism industry fascinated me while I was still in high school, especially the hotels and airlines. The hotels and airline employees always looked professional and smart in their uniforms and were well groomed. I have also always enjoyed travelling on holiday to explore and experience different destinations within South Africa,” she recalls.

Her day to day job involves monitoring forecasts against set budgets, meeting with clients, supporting the team with pipeline enquiries and attending internal executive meetings.
What she enjoys most, she says, is exceeding her clients’ expectations.

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